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like? How would her perfume smell? Would she kiss with her lips open or part them gently and let his tongue explore the warm pink depths of her mouth? There were fewer girls on the subway alone back then. The city was on the verge of bankruptcy, crime was high, homeless people sprawled undisturbed on mattresses right along 23rd Street, the subway platforms reeked of urine. The city was safer now after Giuliani came in and cleaned things up. Still, Little Joe’s daughter worried about him. He thought about Maria as he watched the young blonde girl check her Blackberry. “Why don’t you and Uncle Benny hire someone to work at night?” Maria had asked that just the other day. “Ahh, if you don’t keep it in the family, they’ll rob you blind. All of them.” Little Joe and Benny alternated shifts, the two of them managing to cover all the hours between six in the morning and eleven at night on weekdays, ten to eight on Saturdays and Sundays. One of Little Joe’s friends from elementary school would occasionally take a shift if there was a wedding or a First Communion or a family wake, but even that made him uncomfortable. Little Joe took a sip of espresso from the little demitasse cup that looked like a child’s toy in his thick hand. “You gotta watch ‘em like a hawk, especially the ones you think you can trust. They end up being the worst.” Maria came up behind him and rubbed his shoulders. “You work too hard. And there are all those crazy people in the subway.” “People is one thing I know. I’m an observer of

the human species.” “And I know their tendencies,” Maria teased, lowering her voice to a deep rasp. She laughed and kissed him softly on the top of his head. She was seventeen, beautiful like her mother with thick black hair and a pale, flawless complexion. But Maria was sweeter. Life hadn’t hardened her yet. There was a saying Little Joe heard once, that having a daughter was like falling in love all over again. That was the way it was with Maria. Not only was she beautiful, she was smart-- straight A’s on her report card almost every term. Benny’s boys could take over the business if they wanted it, but not Maria. She was going to college. He reached his hand back and placed it gently over one of hers. “Don’t worry. Your old man knows how to take care of himself.” He never told her about the Saturday Night Special he kept under the counter, stuffed in an old cigar box where he could get to it quickly. He had a billy club and a baseball bat under there, too. The subway was safer now, but still you couldn’t be too sure. Little Joe had been robbed four times, twice at gunpoint and two other times with a knife. Maria never knew about any of that either, unless her mother told her. Little Joe saw it coming every time. There was something about the way the guy moved, a certain look in his eye that triggered a switch in Little Joe’s brain. It was after the fourth robbery that he bought the gun. Little Joe supplied the transit cops with free coffee like his father did. One of them had a beat which included the 23rd Street station and he and Little Joe started talking one night. The cop said he had a good piece he could sell him cheap, told him not to worry about registering it as long as he kept it in the shop. Little Joe never had to use it, but he had reached for it a few times. That was usually enough. The crooks had that sixth sense too. They would just walk off nonchalantly or start browsing the magazine rack as if there was nothing on their minds, but Little Joe knew better. The young girl was safer than she knew standing in front of his newsstand. She didn’t look much older than Maria. She hugged her arms to her chest and stared out at the tracks. The Q express clattered past on the center track, by-passing the station on its way

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Profile for Apeiron Review

Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...

Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...